Remembering James Horner

by Brian | Jun 26, 2015

Growing up, there was never a time where a James Horner film score wasn’t playing. Be that on a movie screen, TV, headphones or in my memory. As a child of the ‘80s, I grew up on a steady diet of some of the most fantastic films ever to grace the screen and a number of them with scores by Horner. You could say that he scored a good portion of my childhood. Whether it was traveling through the streets of New York City in 1885 with Fievel, or playing chess in Central Park with Josh Waitzkin, or walking in the footsteps of history with the men of the 54th Regiment, or setting foot on Pandora, like John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith, Horner could always grasp the core of the story and elevate it to a level of emotional beauty (or tragedy) that stayed with you long after the film was over.

Like others, I have been posting my some of my favorite cues over the past 96 hours via my Twitter feed. Friends of mine in the film score community, and some of my family members know how much I love Horner’s music. While Williams, Goldsmith, and many others also have written many scores I love, for some reason, more than any other, Horner’s scores just connect with me. He was always great at scoring the raw emotion of a scene, and there are many examples I could draw from, but here’s a few: the reunion in “An American Tale,” the launch sequence in “Apollo 13,” the finale of “Legends of the Fall,” Russell Crowe’s performance in the whole of “A Beautiful Mind,” Rose saying goodbye to Jack in “Titanic,” all while powerful scenes in their own right, but Horner’s music simply grounds them in the reality of that moment in the film and allows the audience to escape further into the scene through the notes in his music. This was something Horner could do in spades.

The last few years of his life, I felt that Horner’s music was entering a kind of second renaissance. He not only composed his first concert work in 30 years, the fantastic and beautiful “Pas de Deux,” but his scores to “Black Gold,” “Wolf Totem,” and especially “The Amazing Spider-Man” all rank as some of his best. Later this year we’ll hear his final film scores with “Southpaw” and “The 33.” Horner’s next scores were to be Antoine Fuqua’s remake of “The Magnificent Seven” and James Cameron’s next “Avatar” films. I don’t know about you, but those films will be bittersweet for me come release time.

I never had the pleasure to meet James Horner, but I’d like to think that his music was a reflection of who he was as a person. Music touches all of our lives and his scores were no different. (This was no more evident than on Monday night when #JamesHorner was trending number two worldwide on Twitter.) While I’ve been playing his music non-stop since I heard about his death, the truth is that I’ve really been playing it since the late 1980s. And I’ve never stopped. And don’t plan to. Ever.

Thank you Mr. Horner for every note. You are sorely missed.